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By Jim Sulski

Summary: Caulk can lower heating and cooling bills and applying caulk is an easy do-it-yourself project. Insulating windows and doors is simple with these caulking tips.

In the world of energy efficiency, the humble tube of caulk is a mighty giant.
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In the world of energy efficiency, the humble tube of caulk is a mighty giant.

If installed properly, caulk can make a monumental difference as far as comfort and energy savings over the cold weather months. The few dollars you invest into a tube of caulk can actually return to you as much as ten times that as far as savings on your natural gas or electric bill.

Caulk is also a much more affordable option over say, new storm windows or a new high efficiency furnace. Those are great investments into a home, but take a long time as far as recouping the initial costs - which can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

Caulk around windows and exterior doors does a great job minimizing cold air infiltration, which makes a room or house feel less colder than it is. As a result, you turn down the thermostat, saving energy dollars.

Caulk also prevents water from working its way into your home's shell, which can cause problems such as wood rot or stained drywall and plaster.

Key here is proper application. For example, you do not want to apply caulk when it is too warm (above 85 degrees) or too cool (below 40 degrees) outside. The temperatures will harm the effectiveness of the caulk and its bond to the surface of your home.

In addition, you do not want to apply new caulk when rain is imminent for the next 12 hours.

As a result, the best bet is to install caulk on a cool, dry late summer or early fall day.

If you have an older house with lots of windows to caulk, give yourself an entire day for the job. You will spend lots of time just moving a ladder in place, especially with second floor windows.

Where do you want to apply caulk? Typically, around the perimeter of every door and window, where the outermost frame of the window or door meets the building.

You will, of course, need a caulk gun and new caulk, which is now mostly acrylic- or latex-based and comes in a range of grades and colors, including clear.

The first step is to examine the existing caulk. If it's dry and brittle, chip it away with a paint scraper or putty knife. Brush away any debris.

If there are gaps larger than a half-inch or so, you'll need to plug those with a spray in foam rather than caulk.

Cut the nozzle on the caulk tube at a 45 degree angle and deep enough so that when you squeeze the trigger on the caulk gun, you get a bead of caulk about one-quarter of an inch thick - what you would expect to come out of a toothpaste tube.

Apply a couple of test runs in an unnoticeable area. Notice how quickly the caulk comes out of the gun when you squeeze the trigger and how quickly it stops when you pull the plunger out of the back of the caulking gun.

When applying the caulk, hold the gun at the same 45 degree angle as the cut in the nozzle. Slowly squeeze the trigger and pull the gun towards you.

You can also smooth down the bead of caulk with a wet finger to make it less noticeable. Have many damp rags around for cleanup.

Don't only caulk the outside of windows, but the inside of storm windows as well. Draw a smaller bead that what you applied outside to the joint where the backside of the storm window frame meets the inside well of the window. Again, even if there is no visible gap, seal the joint to prevent air infiltration.

At the bottom, avoid caulking the weep holes, which allow rainwater to run out through the bottom of the storm frame.

In addition to tube caulk, you can also purchase preformed pieces of rope caulk, which is unspooled and pressed in place by hand. Obviously, these are much more time consuming to apply and more expensive than tube caulk.

When you're finished, you can paint over caulk that's noticeable.

Come winter, you'll reap the benefits of your work. On cold days, you'll instantly experience the difference between a window that's sealed with caulk and one that's not.

In addition, as mentioned, you'll start saving energy dollars as you're able to dial down the thermostat.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. April 1, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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